New York City issued the first known birth certificate to list “intersex” rather than “male” or “female” last week to Californian Sara Kelly Keenan, NBC OUT reports.
“As far as interACT is aware, [Keenan’s] is the first birth certificate with the designation ‘intersex,'” said Alesdair Ittelson, deputy legal director for intersex advocacy group interACT. “We are aware of one other reissued birth certificate that reads ‘hermaphrodite’ and several that do not have a sex specified.”
Keenan, who uses the pronoun “she,” became the first Californian and second person in the United States to receive a court order recognizing her legal gender as non-binary in September. Keenan told NBC OUT that she was born with a mix of male and female sex characteristics and was raised as “a girl that can’t make hormones.”
Her groundbreaking accomplishment may pave a path for other intersex individuals.
“Not all intersex people will choose to identify legally as intersex,” Keenan told NBC Out, “and not all parents will choose to have their intersex child identified as intersex on birth documents. But for those who do, the option must exist.”
The sex listed on a person’s birth certificate matters, explained Lambda Legal attorney Paul Castillo, because it often influences other vital identity documents.
“In the United States, birth certificates often provide access to a wide range of public services and critical identity documents, such as state IDs and passports,” Castillo said.
But beyond the practical, there’s an emotional benefit.
“Having birth certificates with gender designations other than male or female provides an enormous sense of validation for a number of non-binary and intersex people,” he explained.
Keenan is one of a handful of intersex and non-binary people who are blazing a trail for accurate legal recognition of their sex and gender. Earlier this year, Oregonian Jamie Shupe became the first person in the United States to have their gender legally recognized as non-binary. And then there’s Dana Zzyym, an intersex person in Colorado who sued the State Department for refusing to issue a passport with an accurate gender designation. A federal judge asked the U.S. State Department to reconsider, but that decision is still pending.
Next up for Keenan: Taking on the DMV in pursuit of an updated driver’s license.